I’ve just returned from an amazing cruise vacation and although I’m still on “ship life mode”, I totally need to get back to work. That means that it’s back to editing the first draft of my novel.
As I think about the editing rounds ahead, I wonder what else could enrich this process. I realize it might be time to look for a critiquing partner.
Why should you have a critiquing partner?
I’ve always loved writing because it makes ME happy. I don’t write specifically with the goal to publish (although I DO want to be published), but for the sake of creating a story I love and can relate to. Still, even if I write for my own enjoyment, I value others’ input and want my readers to appreciate my work. I find that one of the best ways to grow as a writer and truly create a multi dimensional novel is to find a critiquing partner. This is important because he or she can view your story with a fresh pair of eyes, new perspective, doubts or questions, and give an honest feedback.
Should you be someone’s critiquing partner too?
YES! It’s called returning the favor, especially if the person critiquing your novel is writing a book they want feedback on. On that note, keep in mind that Critiquing Partners and Beta Readers are slightly different. Usually a Beta Reader isn’t a writer but someone who reads your work for feedback. If you are returning the favor by appraising someone else’s work,you’ll learn SO MUCH, especially if they write in the same genre. Helping a fellow writer with their novel enriches their skills–and yours. Each author has a unique style, and critiquing someone else’s work lets you approach writing (and editing) from a new angle. You’re not just using your “writer’s cap”, but also your “editor’s cap.” It sharpens your editing skills and gives you new perspective on writing.
Who should critique your novel?
Not your mom, best friend, sibling, or spouse. Well, there are exceptions to this rule, I’m sure, but for me those four people are out of the picture. I would let them read my work and accept their comments and suggestions, but I’d take their feedback with a grain of salt. The truth is, would they really give an impartial assessment or see my work through rose-colored glasses? Again, it may not be true for everyone, but I admit that I would appraise my kids’ work from a position of warmth and biased view.
So by all means, share your work with family and friends, but keep in mind that there are plenty of unbiased people out there who will probably give you a much better (and honest) assessment of your novel. Think about the person reviewing your book and consider if they know anything about the genre your write in. This is important because if your partner only reads romance novels and you give them a historical non-fiction or a mystery book, chances are they won’t be as skilled in spotting inconsistencies. Find a partner that writes and/or reads the genre of your book, and the better their feedback will be.
How should I approach book critiquing?
First of all, be clear with your expectations. If you’re searching for someone to critique your work, let him or her know ahead of time what you’re looking for (and if you’re willing to critique their work in return). Do you need very detailed feedback or a simple opinion on your story? Should they pay closer attention to plot holes, grammar, character flaws, or all of the above? Making these guidelines clear avoid wasting time—for both of you!
Audrey Knapp, the creator of the Facebook group Sprints and Spirits and founder of The Write Services, believes you should clearly state if your book has “trigger points” such as violence, sex, etc. Other important information is the length of your novel as well as a short synopsis.
Be sure you’re REALLY ready to have your book critiqued. Take a good look at yourself and make sure you’re prepared for constructive criticism. Some writers are very touchy about their work and get sensitive at the slightest feedback. It’s okay to be that way, but if that’s the case you may not be ready to have someone critique your work–at least not yet. Still, ask yourself what scares you about this process: are you afraid of failure? Who are you really writing the book for; others or yourself? Are you willing to grow into a better writer even if it means receiving constructive criticism?
Where can you find a critiquing partner?
Network, network, and network some more! The best way to find fellow writers and critiquing buddies is to get out there and share your story, your progress, and your requests! Seek and you shall find. Within minutes of tweeting a short line on social media about critiquing partners, Sprints and Spirits popped up, ready to welcome me into their group.
The following are a good starting point for anyone looking to network with fellow writers:
I know having your work critiqued may be scary, but it’s actually an exciting opportunity to get better and steer your story in the right direction. Constructive criticism helps us become better writers and gives us the perspective we need to give our book a voice.
Are you looking for a critique buddy? Or…would you like to be one?
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